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 Iowa History

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The white pioneers of Northwestern Iowa who ventured into an untried region as settlers in a strange land, as advance guards for the establishment of communities, towns and cities, obtained their first foothold in that picturesque locality where the Big Sioux joins its parent stream, the greater Missouri. It is worthy of note that white civilization in that part of the State should take root in the region where the remains of the gallant Sergeant Floyd were buried, and where his military rank and his distinguished family name were stamped upon the pioneer geography of Northwestern Iowa. Fro several generations the families of William Clark, one of the leaders of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition, and Charles Floyd, the first white man to make sacred by death the soil of Iowa, had fought and bled together to hold the valley of the Ohio against the onslaughts of the Indians and English alike.





Sergeant Floyd was born in the settlement near Louisville, the family surrounded by hostile Indians. His father and uncles had engaged in frequent battles with them, five of his relatives meeting death within a few years at the hands of the savages. Naturally, he was born with a spirit of adventure. In the summer of 1803, Captain William Clark, who resided near the Floyd family and had fought with both Floyd’s father and uncle, received a letter from Captain Lewis, proposing a joint command of a government expedition to the Pacific Ocean, by was of the Missouri and the Columbia, and asking him (Clark) to pick up a few resolute young men to accompany it. Captain Clark turned instinctively to Charles Floyd, then twenty-one years of age, believing with other leaders of men that “blood does tell.” Floyd was one of the three sergeants appointed to have active command of the expedition and had special charge of the officers’ quarters, the stores and the whisky. Captain Lewis relied upon young Floyd to “see that no drunken brawls occurred.” The journals kept by the leaders of the expedition show that Floyd was not altogether successful in this task. Two of the sergeants, including Floyd, and one of the privates, also kept journals of the expedition.


The last entry in Floyd’s journal was August 16, 1804, and noted the bringing in of an Otoe chief and some of his head men to attend a “talk” and a fish feast. Other important Indians were added to the delegation and on the 18th extra whisky was furnished in honor of the occasion, which was not only planned for the head chief but to celebrate the birthday of Captain Lewis. The dance of the evening was continued until 11 o’clock, and says a narrator of the affair, “it is probable that the diet of fish, the excitement of the dance, the feast of the day and the warm weather, with perhaps the effect of the water and extra whisky, all contributed to disorder the stomach of Sergeant Floyd.” He died on the 20th,and the official journal of the expedition, of that date kept by Lewis and Clark, noted that the expedition


passed two islands on the south side of the river, and that at the first bluff “Sergeant Floyd died with a great deal of composure.”
In a special report accompanying the journals, descriptive of streams and creeks, Captain Lewis writes: “Sixteen miles higher up (from Maha Creek) Floyd River falls in on the north side 38 years wide. this river is the smallest called by the traders of the Illinois, “The two rivers of the Sioux,’ but which with a view to discrimination we have thought proper to call Floyd River, in honor of Sergeant Charles Floyd, a worthy young man, one of our party who unfortunately died on the 20th of August, 1804, and was buried on a high bluff just below the entrance of the stream. This river takes its rise with the waters of the Sioux and Demone, from whence it takes its course nearly southwest to the Missoura, meandering through level and fertile plaines and meadows, interspersed with grove of timber. It is navigable for perouges nearly to its source.”

In September, 1806, when the Lewis and Clark expedition was on its return journey down the Missouri River, some of its members stopped at Floyd’s Bluff and found that the Sergeant’s grave had been opened and was half uncovered. It was refilled, and the expedition continued on its way. It is evident from the journals and other records that the captains of the expedition looked upon Sergeant Floyd as their most confidential and trustworthy subordinate, though he was one of the youngest men of the party, and this testimony was so broadcast that few expeditions, or prominent travelers passed that way without visiting the grave. W. P. Hunt, Henry W. Breckenridge, George Catlin, Jean N. Nicollet and others paid their tributes to it and its lovely surrounding. The original cedar pole set by the Lewis and Clark expedition was replaced may times in whole or in part, and by 1857 an oak marker had replaced the cedar pole. It is evident that some time in the ‘50’s the Missouri River became very busy at Floyd’s Bluff, and by 1857 some of the old settlers of the region became alarmed lest the remains should be washed away. Largely through County Judge n. Levering a movement was organized among them by which most of the skeleton was recovered, including the skull, jaw, fragments of ribs, and the large


bones of the lower limbs. The remains were taken in charge by Judge Levering, and afterward by District Judge M. F. Moore. They were re-coffined and reburied, with quite elaborate ceremonies, the new grave being about 200 yards back from the brow of the hill or ridge which formed the original sepulcher. Thus again was Floyd’s grave and memory honored. Then followed a public agitation for the erection of a memorial monument in that locality, which was renewed, from time to time, for many years. When the Sioux City & Pacific Railroad was being graded in 1867 the edge of the bluff west of the grave was cut away, exposing the burial place, but the engineer of the company, Mitchell Vincent, replaced the covering of mother earth, and came afterward to be one of the most active men in the erection of the monument. For more than a quarter of a century afterward, browsing cattle trampled over the hill and the site of the grave, and by 1895 its exact location had been forgotten.


In the spring of that year largely through the initiative of the Sioux City Journal, an agitation was started to fix the exact location of the grave. Finally, on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895, C. R. Marks, John H. Charles and George Murphy (who had known the grave since 1854) carefully examined Floyd’s Bluff, but could see no signs of a grave. Mr. Murphy finally stationed himself on the ridge and said that, as near as he could remember, the body of Sergeant Floyd was reburied about where he stood. Mr. Marks (to whom the facts of this narrative are due) says that before coming he had calculated that in refilling any grave the walls of the excavation would be distinguished from the filled-in part by the difference in the color of the soil which is put back by the shovel in the same order it came out, and the black surface dirt would show. He produced a trowel and pushing it along the surface soon disclosed a distinct line in the soil and, using this line soon found the four walls of a grave about four by eight feet, without digging into the ground more than an inch. There was a possibility that some other persons might have been buried on this bluff, so the party decided to make no present report.


After this preliminary examination it was arranged that in the afternoon of June 6, 1895, a formal meeting and examination of the ground should be held at Floyd’s Bluff. Those who were present at the reburial of the remains in 1857 were especially urged to be on hand. Those who assembled at that time were J. C. C. Hoskins, Samuel T. Davis, J. D. Hoskins, D. A. Magee, George Murphy, L. C. Sanborn, H. D. Clark, A. Groninger, A. M. Holman, L. Bates, E. R. Kirk, William L. Joy, T. J. Stone, C. J. Holman, John H. Charles, J. P. Allison, W. B. Tredway, J. L. Follett, Jr., and C. R. Marks. All of these but Follett, Magee and Marks were among those who had settled prior to 1860, and George Murphy had known Floyd’s greave since 1854. He and others of the foregoing had been present at the reburial in 1857. After some examination, the place discovered on Memorial Day was pointed out and an excavation made chiefly at the west end. An oak plank was found at each end, as if placed for a head and foot marker, and about four feet down, the black walnut coffin was struck by the spade and at the west end it fell in. Enough was opened to disclose the skull, which alone was taken out and was not then put back for fear some one might dig it up and carry it off. The grave was then refilled. Then and there was organized the Floyd Memorial Association, with J. C. C. Hoskins as president and C. R. Marks as secretary. The latter wrote on the skull the date of this finding and signed his name. Those present also signed a statement setting forth the facts leading up to the identification of the grave; thus making the record complete.

From that time, the Floyd Memorial Association, through its presidents, Mr. Hoskins and John H. Charles, and its secretary, Mr. Marks, kept the matter of a monument continually before the public. On August 20, 1895, the anniversary of the death of Sergeant Floyd, impressive exercises were held to mark the placing of a large stone slab over the identified grave. The matter of an appropriation to further the enterprise had been taken up in Congress by Hon. George D. Perkins, editor of the Sioux City Journal, then serving in the House of Representatives, and in 1899, with the aid of the Iowa senator, W. B. Allison, a bill was passed enabling the


secretary of war to cooperate with the Floyd Memorial Association in the expenditure of the appropriation.
The site of Floyd’s grave had originally been owned by William Thompson, the first settler of Woodbury County. The tract in which it was located had been sold under foreclosure, and passed through many hands until, 1895, it came into possession of the Sioux City Stock Yards Company. In May, 1899, that corporation made a deed to the Floyd Memorial Association of the twenty-one acres now embracing the memorial park and the right-of-way to it in consideration of $1,000, paid jointly by the city and the association. Under the supervision of Maj. H. M. Chittenden, a United States Army engineer, the memorial was finally designed and completed. The commissioners charged with the expenditure of the appropriation were George D. Perkins, Asa R. Burton (mayor) and C. R. Marks, of Sioux City; C. J. Holman, of Sergeant’s Bluff and Mitchell Vincent, of Onawa.

The cornerstone of the monument was laid August 20, 1900, ninety-five years from the time of the death of Sergeant Floyd, the two earthen receptacles containing his remains being placed inside the monument base. The monument was completed and dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1901. The ceremonies were appropriate and interesting an widely attended upon both occasions. Floyd's Journal was again brought from the archives of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, and among those who attended the dedicatory exercises was Mrs. Stephen Field, whose father, William Bratton, was a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

As completed, the monument was of Kettle River sandstone, 100 feet high, and was erected at a cost of $20,000. Among others, the faithfulness and persistence of John H. Charles, president of the Floyd Memorial Association at the time of the dedication, has been enthusiastically commended. Not only does the monument commemorate the death of a noble young man, so highly appreciated by those famous pathfinders, Lewis and Clark, but it marks the birthplace of white settlement and expansion in Northwestern Iowa.


William B. Thompson, or “Bill” Thompson, as he was popularly called and often feared in the early time, departed


from Morgan County, Illinois, in 1848. His wife had died during the previous year and he left his two children behind with relatives. He appears to have had no hesitation as to his western location. Before he came into the wonderful region where the Big Sioux is absorbed by the Missouri, he was probably a frontiersman and aside from the long-time notice which attached to Floyd’s grave, the travelers of the West all noted how the Indian trails from the south converged toward the level strip at the foot of the bluff. So this large, broad-shouldered, fearless and good-natured man (when he had his own way) reached the foot of Floyd’s Bluff and there built a double log cabin to serve as a dwelling, trading post and house of entertainment for travelers by land or river. The timber land south of him along the river was a favorite camping place for the Indians and continued as such for many years after he and others came to the region.

Although the Indian claims to lands on Northwestern Iowa had been extinguished at the coming of Bill Thompson, the land had not been surveyed and he had four years in which to examine the locality carefully. He took his stand accordingly. The view from Floyd’s grave and bluff showed a great stretch of bottom land and a creek south of it, with a beautiful grove of many kinds of timber along the river. The traveled trail cut through the eastern part of it, the Missouri laved its shores, and the entire neighborhood abounded in game and wild fruit. Thompson concluded before the surveyors came that this was the locality for a logical settlement.

A number of Frenchmen, with their Indian wives, settled in the locality after the arrival of Thompson, and entered their claims after the Government survey was made in October, 1852. At that time, the acknowledged white settler claimed the Southeast Fractional Quarter of Section I, Township 88, Range 48. His house was on Government Lot 8 in said section and was near the river, south of Floyd’s Bluff and between it and the small mound bluff next south. In the meantime, Charles C. Thompson, and older brother, had joined the pioneer and entered a claim south of Bill’s. Soon after William Thompson settled at the foot of Floyd’s Bluff, he built a corn mill propelled by horse power, the first manufactory in Woodbury County.


Although the survey of the Fractional Township 88 was completed on October 19, 1852, Woodbury County had not been organized, and Thompson felt that he was subject to no authority whatever. In fact, says one of his biographers (C. R. Marks), “he never got over the idea that he was subject to no law, rules or regulations. He was a sovereign by virtue of his physical prowess and priority of settlement. He had a supreme contempt for the rights or opinion of the smaller Frenchmen, with their squaws and Indian friends. He was good-natured, kindly and neighborly when not crossed.”

A few days after the township survey was completed, Thompson’s town of Floyd’s Bluff was platted, and in January, 1853, it was recorded at Kanesville (Council Bluffs). On his Government plat the surveyor, Alex. Anderson, marks Thompson’s name and house, with some short lines north and south of it to indicate a town plat, and opposite to the west writes Town of Floyd’s Bluff. The first records, or rather maps, are careless in their interchange of the names Floyd’s Bluff and Sergeant’s Bluff. Matters were even more complicated when, several years after Floyd’s Bluff was platted, Sergeant Bluff City, as well as Sergeant's bluff, appeared upon the surveyor’s maps, both a short distance south of Floyd’s Bluff.


In 1851, Wahkaw County was erected from territory originally embraced in Benton County, when the latter extended to the Missouri River. The State Senate wished the name Floyd attached to the county, but the House substituted the Indian name of Wahkaw for it. An act of the Legislature approved January 12, 1853, provided for the organization of the county from and after March 1st of that year, and appointed Charles Wolcott, of Mills County, Thomas L. Griffey, of Pottawattomie County, and Ira Perdue, of Harrison County, to locate the seat of justice. The name of the county seat, when fixed, was to be Sergeant’s Bluff. Mr. Griffey was made sheriff and charged with the organization of the county and the commissioners were to meet, for the purposes named, in the succeeding July.


PHOTO: The Sanborn & Follett Sawmill, Mouth of Perry Creek

PHOTO: Store of W. F. Faulkner & co., Pearl Street

PHOTO: Northwestern Hotel, Second Street

PHOTO: Residential District




On the 22d of January, 1853, however, the Legislature changed the name of the county from Wahkaw to Woodbury, in honor of Hon. Levi Woodbury, of New Hampshire, an eminent man of his time who succeeded Judge Story on the Supreme bench. When the commissioners met on July 18, 1853, they reported that they had located the county seat on Section I and set a stake on the avenue running east and west between lots 131 and 37, as laid down on Thompson’s plat of the Town of Floyd’s Bluff. The general election for county officers was held at Thompson’s house in the following August. Seventeen votes were cast, nine of which were cast by Americans - the remainder by Frenchmen, probably un-naturalized. As Woodbury County then embraced substantially Northwestern Iowa, wonder need not be expressed at the strength of the electorate. The officers elected were as follows: Marshall Townsley, county judge; Hiram Nelson, Treasurer and recorder; Eli Lee, coroner; Joseph P. Babbitt, district

At that date the laws of Iowa provided that any organized county might petition the county judge of the nearest organized county and, by his authority, become attached thereto as a civil township for judicial purposes. Hence it was that Woodbury embraced Northwestern Iowa, each county being a civil township. Cherokee County was the first to be set off and organized in 1857. Under the law, the office of county judge was one of much importance and often much abused.


Although William Thompson was one of the judges at the election which brought Woodbury County to the dignity of a distinct civil and political body of the state, he was honored with no office, for the probable reason that he had been indicted for murder in the previous fall and his trial was still pending. The quarrel, which resulted in the trial of Thompson for the crime, was over the attentions of a pretty French-Indian girl, and was between the powerful pioneer of Floyd’s Bluff and an Indian agent or trader named Major Norwood. A dance was being given at the house of one of


the half-breeds to speed the popular major on his departure to St. Louis. In a quarrel over the girl, Thompson was shot through the clothing, and started for his home, about a mile away, to get his gun. Accounts differ as to when, where or how Norwood was killed; but killed he was, and Thompson was naturally suspected. The trial dragged through the courts of several counties, and finally in May, 1856, the defendant was acquitted by a Harrison County jury.

As the country was settled in Northwestern Iowa along the Missouri and Big Sioux, and the Indians were crowded ever westward, the fur trade declined and Thompson became a farmer. But he jealously protected his town site and his land, and for years would listen to no proposal to buy him out. He had trouble with the railroad and his neighbors over boundary lines, and continued to be regarded as a man of violence “when crossed.” In 1869, he married a second time and built a comfortable house just east of the highway on the edge of the little valley. He continued to live as a small farmer, raising good crops of corn and hauling wood to the city which had passed him by. He died on this farm on July 10, 1879.

Thompson’s land, including the site of Floyd’s grave and the memorial monument, which now stands near it, is on the southeastern border of Sioux City.


One of the remarkable men of the Sioux City locality was Theophile Bruguier. He was born near Montreal of a French father and English mother. His paternal grandmother was also of English ancestry, which may account for his sturdy, athletic physique. His character is well analyzed on broad lines as follows: “A pretty strong infusion of mercurial French easily raised to fever heat, but rarely rising beyond control of his cooler English element.” His parents were farmers of good family and connection, intelligent and well-to-do for that region. They desired him to be a lawyer and with that view gave him a better education than his companions enjoyed. But he as early put into commercial life at St. John, near his home, and, although fond of hunting


and adventure, led on the whole a dull life - what between his schooling and hard physical work. Under such conditions he chafed, and to add to his uneasiness a young French lady whom he was engaged to marry died of cholera. He immediately left Canada for the valley of the Missouri and it was eighteen years before he returned to his native land.

Bruguier’s uncle had become connected with the American Fur Company at St. Louis, and in the fall of 1835 the handsome, intelligent, adventuresome young Canadian reached that city, by way of the Great Lakes, Green Bay and the Mississippi River, traveling both by boat and stage. He entered the service of the fur company on November 19th of that year and started for Fort Pierre to trade with the Indians. He soon mastered the Dakota language and became widely and favorably known to the various bands of Sioux in the Northwest of those days. After experiencing two and a half years of this roving and half-wild life in connection with the American Fur Company, he established an independent trade. It must have been about this time that he formally assumed fellowship with the Yankton band of the Dakota, and married two daughters of the Santee Sioux, known to the whites as War Eagle, who had come from Minnesota to the Missouri River country and been adopted into the Yankton Sioux tribe. It is not known how the name originated, as War Eagle, from all accounts had been a peaceful and useful friend of the traders and the Government. He was related by marriage to William Dickson, the trader at Fort Vermilion, and son of the famous Col. Robert Dickson, through whose half-breed veins ran the blood of several chiefs of the Yankton Sioux. War Eagle therefore became chief of this band both on his merits and his blood connections as cementing bonds between the whites and Indians of the region. With other representative chiefs he took the trip to Washington, in 1837, which did so much to bind the friendly Indians to a lasting peace with the United Sates. In token of his friendship, War Eagle was presented with a flag and a bronze medal, nearly three inches in diameter, on one side of which was the picture of the President and the words, “Martin Van Buren, President of the United States, A. D. 1837,” and on the


reverse side a crossed pipe and tomahawk, and the clasped hands of a white man and an Indian, with the words “Peace and Friendship.” This form on the reverse of the medal as the United States standard for Indian medals, was used by Lewis and Clark on those presented to the Indians in 1804 and 1805. War Eagle very much prized this medal which is still in possession of his descendants.

For ten years Bruguier lived as a nomadic Indian, dressing and acting like a savage, but being a good husband and father to Blazing Cloud and Dawn, the daughters of War Eagle. In their family tepee were born thirteen children, all but two of whom reached adult age. This period was one of wild adventures and narrow escapes, but Bruguier’s fearlessness, good judgment and great strength and activity carried him through them all, but not unharmed. Dr. William R. Smith, who was one of the early physicians in Sioux City and attended the Bruguier family, says: “It was no doubt that these noble daughters of War Eagle, the wives of Mr. Bruguier, maintained the proud spirit of the famous chief of the Yankton Sioux within the pale of civilization. I recall way back in the ‘50’s the primitive but natural dignity and fine bearing these noble and devoted daughters, wives and mothers, surrounded by a group of seemingly happy children, making, as I well knew, the bravest kind of an effort to master and practice the arts of a more exacting civilization than that to which they had been accustomed. They were tall and rather fine looking women and impressed one as possessing a genuineness of character which invited trust and confidence. How well I remember some of the smaller children, who, without any hesitation, would talk to their father in French, to me in English and to their mothers in Sioux. These mothers were pioneers of their race. They were pioneers of the frontier in raising Indian corn, the distinctive glory of our Corn Palace City.” In after life Mr. Bruguier spent a small fortune upon the education of his children according to the ideas of white people, with only indifferent success.

Toward the last of his decade of wanderings, the French trader evidently had a reversal to the ways of civilization, and thus describes his turning point: “One night, when I




1. St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Nebraska and Seventh Streets
2. First M. E. Church, Douglas Street near Ninth
3. Residence of John P. Allison, Douglas and Eighth Streets
4. Residence of John Hittle, Seventh Street near Pierce
5. Residence of Ben and William Andrews
6. Residence of E. R. Kirk, corner Eighth and Douglas Streets
7. Residence of L. C. Sanborn
8. Residence of O. C. Tredway
9. Property of R. Selzer
10. Residence and shop of McDougall and Millard



was at old Fort Pierre, I could not sleep and went up on the bluff and lay down in the open, and, falling into a light slumber, I was in deep grief for what I had become and for the place I was living in. All at once I saw spread before me a landscape of bluffs and a stream near a big river, with wooded ravine and bottom land and open prairie near by. I wakened with a perfect picture in my mind, which I described to old War Eagle, who at once recognized its features as existing at the mouth of the Big Sioux, which I had never seen. At this place I at once decided to make my abode.”
Bruguier, accordingly, relinquished all authority in his tribe, turned his back on Indian life, and in May, 1849, established himself as a farmer-ranchman and trader at the mouth of the Big Sioux. War Eagle, who, in years gone by, had hunted and traveled in this region and was familiar with its beauties, accompanied his son-in-law. It is supposed that the Indian chief was now considerably past sixty years of age, and it is reported that he, too, had tired of a roving life and longed for a pastoral abiding place in this picturesque and fertile land. Several miles opposite Floyd’s grave and bluff was a hill or ridge, which fronted the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers and overlooked the noble land which long after became sections of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. Doubtless he had stood many times on this eminence overlooking such an impressive sweep of country and been uplifted by emotions which he could never express. If he really had the ambition to “settle down” and be a n industrious and prosperous Indian, he was not to realize the longing, for two years after the Bruguier family settled at the mouth of the Big Sioux, War Eagle passed away.

The request of War Eagle to be buried on the hill which overlooked the merging valleys of the Big Sioux and the Missouri was followed. The old chief, whose age at the time of his death, is given by different authorities at from sixty-five to ninety years, passed away in 1851. His daughters, the wives of Bruguier, died in 1857 and 1859, and were buried a short distance north of his grave, as well as another daughter, who married Henry Ayotte, Bruguier’s partner. Also two of Bruguier’s children, who died in infancy, were buried



near the remains of War Eagle, with several Frenchmen who had married members of his family.

Says Mr. Marks in his “Sketch of War Eagle”: “The exact location of War Eagle’s grave can only be determined by its relative position as to the other graves. His granddaughter, Mrs. Julia Bruguier Conger, who lived at the old home when they were all buried and visited the ground recently (written in 1924), states that War Eagle’s grave was the one nearest to the face of the bluff and the others are close to it, north or northeast of it. In preparing the ground for the erection of a small monument and tablet for War Eagle’s grave in 1922, sufficient excavation was made to determine the relative location of the graves in this little cemetery, especially those referred to by Mrs. Conger as her mother’s, next north of one without a regular coffin. It was said the his body was buried in a sitting posture on ground sloping from the north to the south, with his head above ground facing south.”

The tablet marking the approximate location of the grave has the following inscription: “War Eagle, a member of the Sioux Nation, who died in 1851, and is buried at this place. This monument is erected in memory of his friendship to the white men by the War Eagle Memorial Association of Sioux City, 1922.”

From the first, after his location at the mouth of the Big Sioux, Bruguier made money furnishing goods to the Indians and supplies to Government posts. But as the country was settled and the Sioux retreated up the river, he became more and more the genial, easy-going country gentleman, with many claimants upon his bounty. He profited by his services in connection with the cessions of lands to the United States by the Yankton Sioux, and through his Indian connections he received both money and valuable tracts of land. He had large holdings in both Plymouth and Woodbury counties, but lost all the tracts which he owned in what is now Sioux City.


A little Canadian Frenchman named Joseph Leonais who had been trading along the Missouri and Yellowstone for


fifteen years, with his headquarters in St. Louis, tired of his roving and in 1852 settled at the mouth of Perry Creek. That stream had been thus christened because three years before, Robert Perry, a somewhat eccentric character of Irish birth, had come from Massachusetts with his young wife and settled on the creek which bears his name. In the early summer of 1856, Perry left that locality for a new claim on the Little Sioux, in what is now Cherokee County.

When Leonais settled at the mouth of Perry Creek in 1852, Bruguier was living in his rude little log cabin a short distance west on the Big Sioux. But Bruguier had rolled together a few logs at the mouth of Perry Creek and broken up a little land there by which to hold his claim. Leonais bought the claim for $100. The tract amounted to 160 acres and, viewed in the light of the present, may be described as bounded by the Missouri River, Perry Creek, Seventh and Jones streets.

Thirty-five years afterward, a local historian asked Leonais if he knew Robert Perry, and his reply was: “Oh, yes! When I was going to Bruguier’s to buy my claim, I saw the blue smoke curling up from between the trees growing about his cabin, which was about where Smith’s greenhouse is now (corner of Ninth and Pearl streets). I went to see him, but he could not talk much French and I but little English. He made me understand that he had raised some potatoes, turnips and corn, and that Sioux Indians had stolen all he raised. He seemed greatly alarmed about Indians. He was a very strange man, somewhat crazy I believe. He lived in his cabin for a year after I settled in mine, then gave me what corn he had left, about five tons of hay, loaded his household goods on a little sled, hitched his pony to the sled and went down the valley. I never saw or heard of him afterward.”


For a dozen years or more after he abandoned his roving Indian habits, Bruguier lived on his large estate of 700 acres at the mouth of the Big Sioux. There he traded extensively with the Indian and furnished supplies to the posts, near and far. He built a large house for his Indian wives and


and children, and several cabins and stables near by. His place was usually overrun with Indians and half-breeds, who used his cattle at will - either alive or cooked, or both. It is said, however, that there was method in Bruguier’s apparent mildness under provocation of open thievery, and that although he forbade this seizure of his cattle (and often their roasting on his premises) he closed his eyes to the seeming abuse and usually collected more from the Government agents than he could have realized had he sold his property in open market. At this homestead both of Bruguier’s Indian wives died. The property finally passed into other hands. It included the present Fair Grounds, Riverside Park and a large tract eastward. It was sold under pressure of indebtedness, after which he realized his ambition to become a gentleman farmer.

In 1862, Bruguier married a Mrs. Victoria Brunette, a most estimable lady, whose life for many years had been spent at various trading posts from the Missouri River to Salt Lake and had been full of unusual and romantic experiences. Both parties to this suitable union were ready to live quietly and work together to build a home for their declining years. They therefore retired to a fine tract of land which Mr. Bruguier owned near Sandhill Lake, Salix, several miles to the south. There a large farm was opened on an unbroken prairie, and on that quiet homestead Bruguier died on February 18, 1895. He had hosts of real friends and his passing was deeply regretted.


Dr. John K. Cook, generally acknowledged to be the founder of Sioux City, was well worthy of the distinction. He was and Englishman, well educated and a graduate in medicine at London. During the earlier years of his residence at Sioux City he appears to have been too busy in laying out and developing the young town to have given much attention to his profession, although he was the first physician to arrive upon the ground. He resided at Carlinville, Illinois, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, for several years before coming to this locality. That Doctor Cook was an all-around practical man is evident from the fact he was engaged by the Government in the survey of Northwestern Iowa, and in the summer of


Founder of Sioux City Early Banker


Attorney Early Merchant




1854 was instructed by a syndicate, on which Congressman Bernhart Henn and Senators G. W. Jones and A. C. Dodge were members, to select a favorable location for a town. Congressman Henn lived at Fairfield, General Jones at Dubuque and General Dodge at Burlington.

Woodbury County had been organized in the fall of the previous year and Doctor Cook’s selection of a site for the projected town probably had in view both the location of a seat of justice and the more open spaces for the expansion of a city than was afforded by the country at and near Floyd’s Bluff. He therefore directed his attention to a site farther north where Floyd River, Perry Creek and the Big Sioux all emptied into the Missouri. In the month of December, 1854, Doctor Cook commenced the first survey of Sioux City, on a quarter section of land on the west bank of Perry Creek. At the mouth of Floyd River he found encamped many Indians, including Smutty Bear, their chief, who ordered him to stop work under threats of violence from his warriors in the “upper country.” Doctor Cook replied (through an interpreter) that if he (the chief) did not keep the peace a sufficient number of white men would be summoned to exterminate his tribe. Thereupon, the savages struck their tepees and departed. The weather, being delightful for this season of the year, the survey so rapidly progressed that it was completed on January 9, 1855. So mild was the winter that the men drove their stakes in their shirt sleeves and the Missouri River was frozen over but eleven days during the winter.

The plat of Sioux City proper was recorded May 5, 1855, and about the same time Doctor Cook, in behalf of the town site company, purchased a quarter section of Joseph Leonais. Upon this was afterward platted the East Addition to Sioux City. Leonais had built his cabin on what is now Second Street near Water, and opened a store for trading with the Indians. The Santee Sioux were then the most numerous Indians of the locality. Here Leonais had lived with his family and cultivated his land which came down as far as Pearl Street of today. He had raised three successive crops of corn since buying the tract from Bruguier, and then sold his claim to Doctor Cook, who is said to have represented that he wanted the land for an orchard. It is further said that


the sister of Leonais, who was living with him, opposed the transfer of his property, but was won over by Doctor Cook by the promise of a house and lot.

In the spring of 1855, there were two log cabins where Sioux City now stands. A post office was established in July, and a United States land office founded officially in December, although the latter was not opened for the transaction of business until 1856. In June, 1856, the first steamboat freighted for Sioux City landed, bringing provisions and ready-framed houses. The population increased that year to about 400, and some ninety buildings were erected. Great excitement for western land prevailed, real estate commanded high prices and the land office did an immense business.
Sioux City was now in line to contest the location of the county seat either at Floyd’s bluff (Thompsonville) or at Sergeant’s Bluff City, still farther south. The latter had been platted several months before Sioux City and had snatched away the seat of justice in April, 1855, from the town of Floyd’s Bluff, which looked large on paper, but only bore one building on its site - the cabin of Thompson himself. Then the Sioux City boom broke, and in March, 1856, the county judge was presented with a petition headed by George Weare, who had recently arrived from Cedar Rapids, as a partner in a banking and land firm, praying for the removal of the county seat from Sergeant’s Bluff City to Sioux City. Naturally, those interested in Sergeant’s Bluff City remonstrated, but in April the electors voiced an affirmative vote by 116 to 72. When Sioux City thereby became the county seat of Woodbury, it was considered “founded.”


The original seven proprietors of the Sioux City Company were the two United States senators from Iowa, Doge and Jones; James A. Jackson, a son-in-law of Doctor Cook; Daniel Rider, a land man of Fairfield, Iowa, each of whom owned an eighth interest in the town site, or one-half altogether; and Congressman Henn and Jesse Williams, and Iowa state officer, both also bankers (Henn & Williams), and Doctor Cook - each of these three owning a one-sixth interest.


Founder of Hunt School Contractor and Builder


Pioneer Merchant Wholesale Grocer and Founder of the first Packing House



Besides being incorporated as a town site company by the Legislature of Iowa, they had procured a charter from the Territorial Legislature of Nebraska for the operation of a ferry up and down the river opposite Sioux City. Through the two United States senators and the congressman, who were of the Sioux City Company, the post office and the land office were located at the new town, and in May, 1856, Congress made a land grant for a railroad from Dubuque to Sioux City. Thus Sioux City was founded largely under the guidance of influential public men, not a few of them also citizens of means. The original proprietors, in turn, sold their interests largely to congressmen and bankers in Washington, and in the spring of 1856 they named themselves the Sioux City Land and Ferry Company. This co-partnership included all those who had bought from the original owners, such as Congressman W. R. Oliver and William Montgomery, of Pennsylvania, and Dr. S. P. Yeomans, the register of the land office, and an educated, adroit and influential citizen, who had done much to make George W. Jones a United States senator.

The Sioux City Land and Ferry Company also received into its ranks George W. Chamberlin, who had come to the site of Sioux City with Doctor Cook as a government surveyor and claimed the north half of section 28, now designated as the tract between Seventh and Fourteenth streets and from Water Street east to Clark. The officers of the company were: John K. Cook, president; Horace C. Bacon, secretary, and Dr. S. P. Yeomans, treasurer.

Doctor Yeomans has furnished this description of the town which the company was undertaking to develop. The says: “I reached Council Bluffs on my way to Sioux City in October, 1855. I found there a large number of mail pouches filled with blanks and documents for the Sioux City Land Office, and learned that there was no public conveyance north from the Bluffs. However, I prevailed upon the stage company to send up a coach, in which I was the only passenger. WE were two days in making the trip, stopping the first night at Ashton, and I think that this was the first stage that ever entered Sioux City. The post office had been established and Dr. John K. Cook appointed postmaster, and it


was said that what few letters he received at first he carried in his hat, giving them out as he chanced to meet the parties to whom addressed. No contract had as yet been let for carrying the mails, but the same was sent by any person who chanced to go that route.

“The appearance of the town at that time was very unpromising. There were but two cabins on the plat and the town site was pretty much covered by a large encampment of Indians. In the treetops at the mouth of Perry Creek were lashed a number of dead Indians, whole upon scaffolds upon the summits of the bluffs west of town were a number more sleeping the long sleep that knows no waking.

“The eating was all done at Doctor Cook’s table, and I trust no offense will be taken at this late day if I express the opinion that the cuisine of his establishment did not measure up to the standard of Delmonico’s; he did as well as any man could have done without supplies, and I don’t know but the bill of fare was as good as that served at the Terrific and other early-day Sioux City hotels.”

The opening of the land office at Sioux City, in charge of Doctor Yeomans, who, through his political influence, had been appointed register, drew an influx of home-seekers to the new town. Why the title to their lots was insecure and how the town site was mainly saved through the high and rather imposing personnel of those who constituted the controlling company is told in the characteristic style of C. R. Marks, viz; “When the land grant from the United States Government for the railroad was made, May 15, 1856, the Government soon withdrew all the land along the line of the road from sale until the railroad lands were selected. At that time, only the part in the east half of section 29, mostly west of Water Street, had been entered from the United States, and the main settled portion of the town, where the chief business district now is, was still government land. This condition lasted until July, 1858.

“We were in a flourishing town of 500 or more people, all squatters on public land, but respecting the contracts given by the town-site company, relying on the fact that the members of this company were backed by the officers of the United States Government, and would see that the Sioux City Land



1. E. R. Kirk & Co., Dry Goods 6. Drugs
2. Howard & Stites, Drugs 7. John Gertz Hall
3. Forest Saloon 8. J. M. Bacon, Hardware
4. John Tucker, Meat Market 9. A. Groninger, Hardware
5. New Drug Store 10. Milton Tootle, Dry Goods


1. Residence of Andrew Parmalee, Nebraska Street near Sixth
2. Residence of Chris. Doss, southeast corner Nebraska and Sixth Streets
3. Residence of Robert McElhaney, Pierce Street near Fifth
4. Warehouse of H. D. Booge & Co., Douglas and Fourth Streets
5. REsidence of Edward Todd, corner Nebraska and Fourth Streets
6. Residence of James W. Bosler, Douglas Street between Third and Fourth
7. Livery barn of Atwood & Westcott
10. Northwestern Hotel, Levee between Pearl and Douglas Streets
11. Sanborn & Follett’s Sawmill



and Ferry Company eventually got the title. Some other additions were controlled by rival syndicates and were in the same condition, especially Middle Sioux City. Land schemers sought to find a way to get this town site land away from the company, but it was too well fortified with political power.
“The lands withdrawn were, in the usual formal way, advertised for sale at public auction, July 1, 1858, at the Sioux City Land Office. The register and receiver of the land office, S. P. Yeomans and Andrew Leech, were to conduct the sale in the land office building. A few stanch friends of the townsite company were let in at the back door before the hour of public sale and secured positions in the front row. Among them were Horace C. Bacon, G. W. Chamberlin and William R. Henry, for the Middle Sioux City syndicate. There was no attempt by any outsider to interfere, and these men bid in their tracts at the price of $2.5o an acre. Our old townsman, L. C. Sanborn, who came here with Horace C. Bacon, was one of those let in the back door and he told me of this episode.

“The situation, however, had not been free from danger from another cause. Up to June, 1857, money had rolled in and the town boomed, but a great financial panic swept over the country; banks failed, the town was busted and many left. So when the time came, July 1, 1858, to enter the land the townsite company were troubled to know how they were going to get the $800 to enter the land. A short time before the date of the sale, a man with gold from California drifted in and they sold him a lot for $600, near the southwest corner of Fourth and Water streets, and the day was saved.”
The year before the town site had been saved by such a narrow margin, Sioux City was incorporated as a municipality; so that, from the late ‘50s its foundation may be said to have been firmly laid.

And while Sioux City had been taking shape, what of the pioneer settlers and settlements of other sections of Northwestern Iowa?


The most important migratory movement of Iowa’s pioneer period through which settlements in the southern and


northwestern portions of the state were stimulated was that which followed the expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois. Their first contingent started on their enforced journey toward the Missouri and across the state from a camp on Sugar Creek, Lee County, and almost in sight of their deserted City of Nauvoo. They were forces out into this unknown country in the cold of February, and for five months their various bands floundered in snow drifts and cold spring rains. Some of their camps became settlements, their weary trail of 300 miles leading them through the southern border of counties of Lee, Van Buren, Davis, Appanoose and Wayne; thence northwestward through Decatur, Clark and Union, and thence westward through Adair, Cass and Pottawattomie. In July, 1846, the vanguard of these 15,000 pilgrims, who had not fallen by the way, reached the Missouri River and founded a town called, successively, Hart’s Bluff, Traders’ Point, Kanesville and Council Bluffs. Its most popular name while the Mormons remained at the settlement was attached to it in honor of Colonel Kane, of Pennsylvania, who organized the Mormon Battalion for service in the Mexican war. In 1849-51 great numbers of gold seekers passed through Kanesville on their way to California, and large outfitting stores were established. Many of the Mormons remained in Kanesville, or Council Bluffs, and at other places along their route in Iowa until 1854, when all the faithful were summoned to Salt Lake City.

All however, who called themselves Mormons did not go. The largest schism who refused to follow the leadership of Brigham Young was controlled by Joseph Smith, Jr., and his mother, Emma Smith. They repudiated the practices of polygamy, claiming that their faction were the true disciples of Mormonism. The headquarters of this sect was at Lamoni, Decatur County, Southern Iowa.

Prior to the grand exodus from Kanesville, many Mormons had left the river town and settled farther to the north, especially in what are now the counties of Woodbury, Crawford and Monona. Shorn of their polygamous relations they proved to be good citizens and many held influential positions



1. J. J. Schlawig’s residence, Nebraska and Sixth Streets
2. Mat Gaughran’s residence, Douglas and Fifth Streets
3. John Allen’s residence, Nebraska Street above Sixth
4. John Hagy’s residence, Northwest corner Pierce and Sixth Streets
5. First Congregational Church, Douglas Street between Fifth and Sixth
6. St. Elmo Hotel, Douglas Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets
7. Quarter block on which the Court House was built in 1876
8. Summit of Prospect Hill


1. John Pierce, Real Estate 6. Gurnsey’s Photograph Gallery
2. C. A. Maxon, Dentist 7. John M. Pinckney & Co., Books
3. Dr. John Bailey and Stationery (Post Office)
4. Mrs. Wash Fullen, Milliner 8. L. W. Tuller, Groceries
5. Burkam & Bucknam, Real Estate 9. Andrews Bros., Groceries


in the communities which they founded, as well as over a larger scope.


Mormons commenced the settlement of Smithland, in Woodbury County, in 1851, or possibly earlier. William White, Curtis Lamb and J. Sumner, known as apostate Mormons, left the settlement at Kanesville and squatted on land in the Little Sioux Valley, near what is now the southern border of Woodbury County. In the fall of 1852 Orrin B. Smith, his brother, Edwin, and John Hurley, started from the Council Bluffs town on a hunting expedition. Following up the Little Sioux, to their surprise they came across the three squatters living comfortably in this wilderness. They stopped with Sumner a short time, as he had made some improvements on his property and then proceeded on their way up the valley. On the return of the hunters, Orrin Smith was so impressed with the beauty and fertility of the locality where Sumner had Squatted and held tow claims, that he bought the rights of the temporary settler or $100 in gold.

Smith at once took possession and shortly afterward returned to Council Bluffs. He sold one of his purchased claims to Eli Lee, who, with his family, occupied his land in February, 1852. Shortly afterward, Orrin Smith moved his own family to the claim which he held. What was at first known as the White settlement began with the two Smiths, William White, Curtis Lamb, Eli Lee and John Hurley, some of them with families. William White, after whom the original settlement was named, afterward moved into Monona County. he started the first ferry to cross the Little Sioux River.

The White settlement materially increased in numbers from 1853 to 1855, inclusive, the newcomers including Martin Metcalf, a Methodist exhorter, probably the first to conduct Christian religious services in Woodbury County. The first natural increase of population recorded during that period was the coming of twins to the household of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin M. Smith, in 1854. Two years afterward, a steam sawmill was erected by Mr. Smith and others. During


the year of its erection, he accidentally fell upon the saw and was killed.

In the meantime, Orrin Smith had come to the front as the most prominent man of the settlement, and one of the representative men of the county, and when Woodbury was organized by the election of August, 1853, he was elected prosecuting attorney, and in the following year, county judge. To hold the latter office was a great honor in those days, as the duties of the county judge covered those afterward delegated to the board of supervisors and auditor, as well as much probate business. In 1855, Orrin Smith platted his town of Smithland on Section 26, Range 44. He was appointed postmaster and the office added to his importance. A mail route had been established which ran from Fort Dodge to Sioux City, with Smithland as a growing station. Even Sioux City was behind Smithland in the inauguration of schools fro the rising generation of boys and girls; for the first schoolhouse in Woodbury County was built in Smith’s town, principally by the owner of the site himself. It was completed in 1855 and constructed of hewn cottonwood logs, with puncheon for the floors and doors. It was taught by Miss Hannah Van Dorn, afterward Mrs. Burton, of Onawa, and was, of course, a subscription school. The teacher received $2 per week for instructing the five or six children who were in attendance, and Mr. Smith boarded her free of charge.

In the county seat fight between Sioux City and Sergeant’s Bluff City the proprietor of Smithland threw his influence for the more southern contestant, but was unable to stem the tide which, in the spring of 1856, swept the coveted honor into the keeping of Sioux City.

It was one of the natural routes of travel for the disaffected or dissatisfied Mormons at Kanesville, or Council Bluffs, to prospect up the Boyer River Valley. They did so in the early ‘50s and were the means of founding Deloit and Dow City. Denison, in the Boyer River Valley, between the two Mormon settlements, was of later establishment and was founded and developed in a more systematic and business-like way. It did not just happen to be.




The first settlers who came to Crawford County did not antedate the Mormons by more than a year, and they were followers of Cornelius Dunham, a Vermonter, who had settled in Jackson County, Eastern Iowa, gathered a substantial lot of cattle and hogs and decided to establish a home farther west in the line with the flowing stream of migration toward California. He engaged Franklin Prentice and wife to care for his live stock and build him a house; Reuben Blake to drive his cattle and hogs to their destination, and his oldest daughter, Sophronia Dunham, to assist with the cooking. The leader of the little colony reached his claim, afterward known as Dunham’s Grove on East Boyer River about six miles east of the town of Denison, in the early summer of 1849. Leaving Mr. Prentice and family to care for the stock and build him a cabin, Mr. Dunham and daughter, with Mr. Blake, returned to Jackson County to raise a crop and bring the family on in the fall.

Mr. Prentice built the cabin in the open season. For its door, he cut down a large walnut tree and hewed form it an immense plank four inches thick, which he hung with massive wooden hinges. It must have been a lonesome existence for himself and wife, despite the duties with which they were charged. Mr. Prentice supplied his family with meat from the droves of elk and deer around him, but before Mr. Dunham reappeared with his family, the caretaker’s powder was so nearly exhausted that he was about to start for Council Bluffs to replenish his stock. Mr. Dunham reached his claim in time to prevent this long and hazardous journey. Despite Mr. Prentice’s care in guarding the live stock entrusted to his charge, some of the Dunham hogs escaped and years afterward their wild progeny were seen by early settlers roaming the neighboring region.

Cornelius Dunham first settled on what afterward became the Tracy Chapman farm, in section 2, East Boyer Township, in the autumn of 1849. In the same year, Franklin Prentice took a claim at the mouth of Otter Creek, on Boyer River, near the wooded tract, which, within the following four or five years became the center of the settle-


ment which finally developed into Deloit. This was the first concentration of settlers in Crawford County, although Denison preceded it as a platted town.

The original settlers were Mormons from Council Bluffs and soon afterward they were joined by other pioneers from Eastern Iowa, some of whom had known the members of the faith when they were driven from Nauvoo and commenced their pilgrimage to the West. In June, 1850, Jesse Mason and his family settled northeast of the central part of the county in the large grove, to which his name was at once attached. During the same summer Noah V. Johnson and his brother, George J., as well as Calvin Horr, joined their fellow religionists, and before winter Levi Skinner and family also established homes at Mason’s grove. About a year afterward, Benjamin Dobson and family, and his son, Elder Dobson and family located near Mason’s Grove, where the town of Deloit was subsequently laid out. Mormons and non-Mormons lived together in friendship and frequently intermarried.

At first the settlement was generally known as Mason’s Grove, and the mail was regularly received from Galland’s Grove. Soon, however, a post office was established with Ben Dobson as postmaster. It then became necessary to select a name, and the office was known as Boyer Valley. Next, it was christened as Bloomington, but as there were many places by that name in the United States, the post office department requested the townsmen to make another attempt. Mason, Mason Grove and Mason City were all suggested. The Beloit was chosen. Then, the more far-seeing Government again objected to the name, on the old plea that “there were already too many Beloits in the United States,” and the weary townspeople instead of hunting an entirely new name substituted a D for a B; and Deloit it has remained to this day - a pretty little village of a few hundred people nestling on a hillside at the head of a turn of the Boyer Valley.

In the southwestern part of Crawford County, also in the valley of the Boyer River, were several beautiful and fertile groves, which were irresistible magnets to home-seekers and would-be settlers. The same statement applies to the


more southern counties stretching to Council Bluffs and the Missouri. Galland’s Grove, in Northern Shelby County, obtained such an influx of these immigrants as to over flow into the southern part of what in now Crawford County. The majority of the pioneer of the latter section were Mormons, and North Grove became the nucleus of the settlement which expanded into Dow City, as Mason’s Grove was the forerunner of Deloit. It is claimed that Frank Rudd, a Mormon elder, who came to North Grove with his family in 1850, and built a cabin in that locality, was the first settler there. As he was a hunter, a trapper and a tanner of deer skins, as well as a respected member of his church, he took a prominent place in the community, and also founded a family well known in its annals. James M. Butler, the second settler to build a cabin, located in the upper Grove in March, 1851. He and several others were frightened away by Indian raids which extended into Shelby County. Some, however, returned when the threatened danger was over.

The first permanent settlements were made in 1853. Edmund Howorth, who located on section 26, Union Township, was perhaps the pioneer of this lot. In the same year a number of Mormons settled near where Dow City now stands - Elder John R. Rudd and Benjamin F. Galland, with their families. Elder William H. Jordan arrived the next year.


S. E. Dow, a New Hampshire man who had lived in Michigan a number of years, was unaffiliated with the Church of the Latter Day Saints. In 1854, he started to seek his fortune in California, but on his way to Council Bluffs concluded that the prairies of Illinois were good enough for anyone. The remainder of his useful life of more than fifty years is thus indicated in the words of F. W. Myers, the historian of Crawford County: “He returned as far as Harris Grove, in Harrison County, where he spent the winter, coming to Crawford County the year following. Here he selected a beautiful tract of land, which he so long occupied, beginning immediately to improve and build a home for himself and family. This proved the nucleus around which grew the settlement of Crawford, later Dowville and now Dow


City. He was elected county judge and county treasurer and held many minor local offices. The one that he appreciated most was that he was the first postmaster of Crawford. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Dow was noted for its hospitality. When so many of the settlers needed assistance they always found it and a cordial welcome awaited them at the Dow house. On the establishment of the station on the Northwestern Railway, Mr. Dow began business, forming a partnership with Mr. Abner Graves, his son-in-law. For many years this was the leading business concern of the western part of the county. Financial reverses came and Mr. Dow was reduced from affluence to comparative poverty, but he never lost the good will, esteem and confidence of his neighbors, and no man has held a more honored position among those who knew him best. His later years were spent in retirement, although he continued to take an active interest in the affairs of the community and his judgment was respected by all. Mr. Dow died October 30, 1906, at his home in Dow City. Impressive funeral services were held, people from all parts of the county being in attendance. What Thomas Dobson was to Deloit, what J. W. Denison was to Denison, S. E. Dow was to Dow City - the founder and constant friend.”


The Latter Day Saints in Crawford County, who did so much to found Deloit and Dow City, have maintained their local organization for more than seventy years. An active reorganization of the interests of the general church was commenced as early as 1852, when missionaries were sent out to preach and build up the sect,. The first of theses missionaries to come to Crawford County was Elder John A. McIntosh, of Shelby County, accompanied by Elder Alexander McCord, who came to Mason’s Grove in August, 1858, and held services in a log schoolhouse near Deloit. A Deloit branch was organized in 1862, with Elder Thomas Dobson as president or pastor, and in 1867 the members of the church at Dow City also formed a branch, of which Elder George Montague was pastor. The headquarters and publishing houses of the general church of the Latter Day Saints are at


Lamoni, Decatur County, Iowa, and at Independence, Missouri.


Before Denison was located, Crawford County had been settled for five or six years. There was a flourishing community at Mason’s Grove, a little store had been established at what is now Deloit, and along the Boyer, at that place, a sawmill and a gristmill were in operation. There were settlements in the groves along the creeks and rivers; at Durham’s Grove on the East Boyer, at Coon Grove in the southwest part of the county; and at Bee Tree Grove. There was also what was later known as Fort Purdy, in what was called the Burnt Woods.

The county seat of Crawford was the creation of Rev. J. W. Denison, Baptist minister of New York, who had preached several years in Illinois before his health failed and he sought to regain it by pursuing a more active and outdoor life. His short residence in the Mississippi Valley had impressed him greatly with its possibilities and probabilities, and , returning to the East, he so interested a number of capitalists as to bring about the formation of the Providence Western Land Company, with himself as its agent. In the fall of 1855, he therefore came to Iowa and entered over 20,000 acres of land in Crawford and Harrison counties for the company which he represented. The sudden death of his wife called him to Rock Island, his temporary home, but in the spring of 1856 he returned to Crawford County which he had decided to make the center of his operations.

But the Rev. Mr. Denison has spoken for himself in these words: “In the fall of 1855, the undersigned formed a land company in Providence, R.I., called the Providence Western Land Company, with the view of investing in government lands at some points in Western Iowa, where a village or town could be built up in connection with the farming interests. It was designed to secure about a township, or 23,040 acres of land as a basis of operations; and for this purpose a fund of $31,000 was advanced, and to this was soon added $20,000, making a capital of $51,000 for the work.


“After a careful survey of the field through Central, Southern and Western Iowa, it was decided to pitch our tent permanently in Crawford County, being central in location and sufficiently distant from any place of importance to give room for healthful growth, while the soil, streams and timber gave evidence of value equal to any, and far exceeding many of the counties of the state. The four diagonal points of notice, of which this was the center, were Council Bluffs, 65 miles southwest of us; Sioux City, 75 miles northwest; Des Moines, 100 miles southeast, and Fort Dodge, 75 miles northeast. A state road from Des Moines to Sioux City ran through this country, as did also a road from Council Bluffs to Fort Dodge; and a dotted line on the maps of that day indicated the line of railroad some day, east and west through the center of this tier of counties, which is the exact center line of the state to a mile.

“The population of the county was not to exceed two hundred; about half of it being in and around Mason’s Grove and the other, in and around smaller groves in the southern part of the county, in both places along the Boyer River and its tributaries. The center of the county was honored with one family, located with about a mile and a half of the center. Some three miles farther south were a few families and among them our honored county judge, John R. Bassett.

“It was in this vacant center that we pitched our ten, at the junction of the Boyer rivers, for the proposed town site, within one mile and a half of the geographical center of the county, and secured some twenty thousand acres of land in its vicinity for the farming interests. AS the county seat was not yet located, it was natural that we should suggest to the locating commissioners appointed by the district judge that they consider the merits of this point among others, as the one designed by nature for the shire town of the county. They did so, and, as the result, the county seat was located where it has since remained, and, doubtless will continue, as long as the Boyer remains. This was the spring of 1856, and in the same spring was that memorable Land Grant of Congress for aiding the construction of four railroads through the state east and west, and one of them to run on the parallel of 42 degrees as near as practicable to the Mis-


souri River. As this line was directly through the center of Crawford County, it was but natural to conclude that we were in luck - that we were ‘in town.’

“By the way, the incident that resulted in the naming of the town might interest some inquisitive one upon that topic. It was this: The commissioners having decided upon the location, and returned to the house of the county judge for making out their report to the district judge, had gone on with their preamble to the point of describing the location and saying ‘its name shall be’ - at this point they stopped and began to suggest names. Finally Mrs. Bassett, an invalid lady confined to her bed and for years unable to walk, spoke up and said, ‘Why not call it Denison?’ ‘Denison?” said they, ‘Yes, that is the name,’ and immediately completed the sentence ‘and its name shall be Denison.’

“To that much esteemed lady, therefore, Mrs. Bassett, who is still the same invalid (written in 1875) with the same Christian spirit of meekness that these twenty years have since witnessed, belong the honor of naming the county seat of her adopted county; and the judge, her devoted husband, who was the chosen executive for six or eight years, still remains an honored servant to witness the growth of the town and of the county from the cradle t the beginning of manhood - the former from blank to population of 1,200, the latter from 200 to 7,000, with every indication of increase beyond any of his most favorite dreams.

“There was with me in that early day, R. W. Calkins, of Rock Island, Illinois, who rambled with me days and nights over the bleak prairies, that dreary fall and winter; and when we brought up in this country we made our headquarters at Father Dobson’s in Mason’s Grove, now Deloit, a town of his own making, and who, at that time , had the only saw and flouring mill within the distance of forty to sixty miles in any direction, and the burr-stones of which he was said to carry in his side pockets to this house for dressing! When completed, they would turn out from three to ten bushels of corn a day for the weary farmer who had hauled it for thirty or forty miles for that early staff of life - the gist of ‘hog and hominy’.”



In the fall of 1853, a colony of Mormons numbering about 500 men, women and children existed at Preparation near the southern line of Monona County in the neighborhood of the Soldier River. It remained under the leadership, or stewardship of Charles B. Thompson for five years, it adult members, during the later portion of that period being in a state of suspicion, which culminated in open rebellion.

Thompson was of Quaker parentage and a native of New York. When a young man he joined the Methodist Church, but soon after became interested in the Church of the Latter Day Saints at Kirkland, Ohio, was confirmed by Joseph Smith and ordained to preach. He continued to be connected with various organizations in New York, Ohio, Missouri and Illinois, and when he moved to Nauvoo after the death of Joseph Smith he was a high priest. Soon afterward he had visions and in one of them he claimed to have received a revelation form on Baneemy, a spirit successor to Joseph Smith, that he had been appointed Chief Teacher of the Schools of Preparation of Jehovah’s Presbytery of Zion, as an interpreter of the Book of Mormon. He claimed to have had the revelation at St. Louis in January, 1848, and three years later commenced the publication of a monthly to spread his views. In September, 1852, the region around Kanesville was selected as the meting place for the gathering of the schools of instruction, or preparation, and the headquarters of the traveling missionaries. In December of that year an assembly of Thompson’s followers was held near Kanesville, but, as yet, no provision had been made for the removal of Thompson and his family from St. Louis.

Thereupon, Thompson had a revelation from his guardian spirit, Baneemy (the significance of which name he variously explains) that he should be conveyed to a proper place in which he could carry on his great work. By November, 1853, the site of Preparation had been selected and Thompson’s house was ready for himself and family. The town was laid out into acre-lot and all of the colony under United States laws; and at first this timber and the town were all that was con-


templated to be held by the church or Presbytery. Thompson held the claim to the town plat. The form of the town organization was much the same as that adopted by the Mormons in their settlements, especially at Nauvoo; to give each settler a block or lot of one acre for a home, the farming to be conducted outside by those living in the town. Thompson’s printing press had been set up, and in November, 1853, the September number of his “Zion’s Harbinger and Baneemy’s Organ” was issued from Preparation. In the following month, the Solemn Assembly was attended by upwards of 100 persons, although not all were members of the colony. A religious service was held and a feast given on each of the three days of the assembly, and the real business and organization of Jehovah’s Presbytery of Zion began.

It is not necessary for the purposes of this sketch to ho into details as to the revelations which came to the leader of this offshoot of the Joseph Smith branch of Mormonism through which his followers were commanded to pass over obligation gifts, tithing and sacrifices and other sacred treasures as atonements for their sins and assurances of “inheritance.” A record was kept of the gift obligations, chiefly in small sums, but on becoming members of Jehovah’s Presbytery of Zion at Preparation, an inventory of all worldly possessions was taken, and one-tenth of this was paid into the Lord’s Treasury - that is, to Charles B. Thompson - generally in kind, even to clothing; and in the first year each one who could work was expected to labor one day in ten for the Presbytery (Thompson). Most of those who joined had very little property beyond tools, stock and furniture; only seven, as shown by the tithing record, had over one thousand dollars’ worth of property each, though it
cropped out later that some who had money discreetly gave it to their children, and so were enabled to honestly take the oaths and covenants, and yet keep a little money for emergencies.
The colony increased in numbers and at the assembly of April, 1854, 120, from 20 to 25 families, partook of the feast at Preparation. In April of that year Monona County was also organized. Thompson was elected to the chief office, that of county judge, and most of the other county officers, with all the township officers, were members of the Presby-


tery. Soon afterward, a post office was established at Preparation, and, of course, Thompson was appointed postmaster. He also conducted a general store, and advertised in his paper: “Flour, meal, pork, and butter are for sale at the Lord’s storehouse in Preparation.

“Wanted, at the Lord’s storehouse, on tithing and gift obligations, all kinds of country produce, honey, dry goods and groceries, young stock, cows, horses, oxen, harness, wagons and farming tools.”

As the murmurings of the colonists became more pronounced, and the tithing did not come into the Lord’s Treasury to suit the chief steward, the “voice of Baneemy” became more severe, and by August, 1854, the faithful were commanded to surrender all their property to Thompson and to work for two years, in return for which “new order of sacrifice” the chief steward was to furnish them with board, lodging and clothing, not exceeding a specified sum per year. Specified ones were to do the sowing, reaping, grist and sawmill work and logging; a head cook was appointed, and thereafter, until August, 1855, they were all fed as one community. The colony had commenced to shrink under these slave-like conditions. In August, 1854, several of the colonists had been expelled for heresy, calumniating Thompson, and endeavoring to prevent immigrants from joining the colony. Thompson now started a weekly newspaper called “The Preparation News.” He became more dictatorial, preached close economy in food dietary, which he failed to practice himself, and the butter and cheese which were denied the colonists were sent to Council Bluffs, with juicy pork and beef, where they were sold to increase the fund in the Lord’s Treasury.

Some became discontented and departed from Preparation without settling with Thompson, leaving their sacrifices, tithing and obligations with him; other made a settlement, got some of their property back and exchanged receipts. In August, 1855 the Chief Steward organized two corporations. One of them, called the sacred Treasury of Jehovah’s Presbytery of Zion, incorporated Thompson’s individual property, which had been obtained by his “labors” and by “the voluntary gifts, tithing and sacrifices of the members of Jehovah’s


Presbytery of Zion for that purpose.” Its object was announced to be the establishment of schools and other uplifting institutions. Thompson was to be the sole manager of this corporation and future contributions or donations to the fund could never return to the donors. The other corporation, known as the House of Ephraim, was designed to carry on farming, milling and mechanical business and stood for what it was - a corporation designed for profit. Jew, Gentile or Ephraimite could pay into its treasury one-fifth of their worldly possession in order to take stock in it to the extent of their remaining surplus property! In the following spring, Thompson forced the colonists to relinquish their stock in the House of Ephraim in exchange for script which he issued to them; thereby, the Chief Steward became sole owner of both corporations and all the business which might be transacted in their names. Not satisfied with these arrangements, he obtained bills of sale from his followers including not only growing crops, but clothing, and to cap their subservience to him, his chief underlings, Guy C. Barnum and Rowland Cobb, and all the lesser fanatics, in return for their sacrifices, were invested by their leader with a coarse cotton garment, or smock, which he called the Garment of Holiness. Even in the history of fanatical movements, it is doubtful if a group of people were ever reduced unconsciously to such abject slavery as these colonists at Preparation.

The chief developments of 1857 were the steps by which Thompson secured the title to the colony lands in his own name, and commenced to receive messages from the Lord to send away missionaries who were in his way. These commands came without a moment’s warning - so suddenly, in fact, that Rowland Cobb and Thomas Lewis, two of his most prominent stewards, received commands to appear before the legislatures of Virginia and Kentucky and pronounce the vengeance of the Lord upon those bodies and states if the slaves held were not freed, - the one while in the woods hauling lumber and the other, while ploughing in the field. they left team and plough and, in scant, rough attire, performed their missions.
It is said that in 1858, some of the missionaries whom Thompson had sent into the field returned to Preparation,


wiser, if not sadder men, and the rebellion soon broke like a sudden storm. Guy C. Barnum seemed to be the only old-time leader who stood by the Chief Steward. Rowland Cobb and other were discharged from the Presbytery. The opposition had become so strong that Thompson moved to Onawa, now the county seat and where he had established another newspaper, the Onawa Advocate. Barnum was with him there more or less and to his head man, as well as to his wife, the tottering head of the colony had deeded considerable of his property.

In October, 1858, it was reported to the dissatisfied and rebellious colonists at Preparation that Thompson was to visit the place from Onawa, and quite a crowd assembled to demand of him a settlement. Says C. R. Marks, who has written several papers on these interesting episodes in the history of Mormonism in Iowa: “Sentinels who had been posted on the bluffs saw him coming, with Guy C. Barnum in the distance, over the Missouri bottom lands. But one Melinda Butts, a daughter of one of the colonists who lived in Thompson’s family, probably sent by Mrs. Thompson along the road to warn him of the possible danger, met Thompson and Barnum, and told them of the crowd assembled; they immediately turned their team around and started at full speed back to Onawa.

“News of this return soon came to Preparation and several men at once started on horseback to follow him, and did, so closely, that Thompson and Barnum unhitched their team and fled on horseback, two pursuing them to Onawa. Thompson sought protection among the citizens of Onawa, and that night fled to Sioux City, staying a week; negotiations were had seeking a settlement, but Thompson made only promises and worked for delay. The men returned to Preparation the next day and went to his house and took possession of the household goods and clothing that had been put into the sacrifice, and in Mrs. Thompson’s presence opened the trunks and boxes in which they were stored, and returned the article to the original owners who were there to identify them. No property was destroyed, except a collection of Thompson’s printed books, tracts and papers, and some pork and mutton killed for food. The sheriff of the county and


Judge Whiting came over from Onawa to keep the peace and witnessed much of this last day’s proceedings.

“Mrs. Thompson, with much of her furniture and goods, was moved that day to Onawa. Suits were beginning replevin to get possession of the farming tools and other property. Thompson had conveyed away all but 40 acres of land, that being his homestead; about 1,000 acres to his wife, who afterward deeded it to his brother, D. S. Thompson, in St. Louis, and 1,360 acres in trust to Guy C. Barnum, this part for settlement with those who had remained faithful, in case anything might be due them, and to allay the excitement, as he said; 320 acres to Thompson’s brother, that Thompson himself held about 3,000 acres.

“The report of the mob had reached Thompson, who kept himself in hiding for several days in the attic of Judge Addison Oliver’s house in Onawa; the judge was then acting as his attorney. Mrs. Thompson stopped there also, and it was said she had a small bag of jewelry, presumably that which had been given up in the sacrifice by the women. She seemed to set great value on this collection, much beyond its real worth. When Thompson was driven up to Sioux City and Sergeant Bluffs, Woodbury County, he seemed to be in great fear of personal violence and would start at every sound.

“Thus ended the unity of the colony and the religious organization. A suit was brought in behalf of the colonists against Thompson and those to whom he had conveyed property in the nature of a bill in equity, to declare the colony a partnership and Thompson a trustee, holding the title in trust for the members, and to set aside the conveyance form him to his wife, brother and Barnum. Thompson’s defense was that so far as the people had put any property in his hand it was in payment for his services as chief teacher, and that this was expressly understood between them and that the written contracts he made with them established these facts.”

Litigation commenced in 1859 and did not end until 1867. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the people and under its order a division of the property occurred. The gifts, tithing and sacrifices amounted to about $15,000, but considerable of this in clothing, tools and teams was practically



kept by the people, while most of the money raised went into buildings, mills, printing material and living expenses. On the other hand the increase of the cattle and the sale of the crops provided quite an income.

Barnum seems to have been the chief leader and business manager for Thompson. He was much shrewder and businesslike, and less sanctimonious. He went to Columbus, Nebraska, was a member of the state Senate and later became insane. Beyond the fact that Thompson resided in St. Louis for several years, the after life of the chief fanatic and conspirator is unknown. Although the colony at Preparation was the least stable of any of the Mormon ventures in Northwestern Iowa, it created the most notice from the boldness with which its leader obtained temporary mastery over such a considerable community.


There is a record of only two settlers having located within the limits of Monona County prior to the advent of the Mormons on Soldier Creek. The first was Isaac Ashton who, in 1852, made a claim about two miles north of Onawa, while Joseph Sumner located near him. The same year Aaron Cook settled on the bank of the Missouri at a place which became known as Cook’s Landing.


While the Mormon Land Company laid out the Town of Onawa, in 1857, the settlement of Whiting, several mile to the northwest, had been established by the Whiting brothers, sturdy Ohio farmers and business men of good Gentile stock. Charles E. Whiting and his two younger brothers, Newell and William, first established a flourishing wagon business in New Market, Alabama, and in 1850 the oldest of the three went to California and was so successful there that he bought a large tract of land in Iowa County, in the eastern part of the Hawkeye State. This he sold to such good advantage to a New York colony that he bought several thousand acres of choice land, in cooperation with his brothers, between the Missouri and Little Sioux rivers, and these tracts formed the



basis of the famous Whiting Settlement. Its nucleus was formed in 1856. Various members of the family have contributed for several generations to the advancement of the agricultural and live stock interests of Northwestern Iowa. Charles E. (Edwin) Whiting was especially prominent in the breeding of fine cattle, in experimental forestry, and in improved methods of farming and horticulture. As a member of the family lately wrote: “All of these brothers except Myrick, who died in 1869, lived to see the trees which they planted grow and furnish not only fuel, but lumber for many of their buildings. They lived to hear the Whiting Settlement spoken of as ‘the most beautiful and nearest to an ideal section of farming country of like size in the United States.’
“Not one acre of the original farm has ever been sold, but many have been added to it. These farms are all operated by children and grandchildren of the pioneers. There are now nine beautiful homes, instead of the four rude houses of the early day. Instead of waving prairie grass, we see the golden fields of grain and the tender green of the corn. The winter blast no longer piles the snow in drifts many feet deep, for there are windbreaks of wonderful old trees and groves set out over sixty years ago by these early pioneers who did not live unto themselves alone but looked far into the future, happy as they worked and toiled, with the thought that those who followed after them would enjoy the fruits of that toil.”


The first settlers of Calhoun County included the vanguard of a new interior frontier which was advancing up the Des Moines River and its tributaries to Northwestern Iowa. They located in the Coon River Valley, in the southwestern part of the present county, about a year before a political organization had been effected.

When the Legislature assembled in January, 1853, several of its members voiced their dissatisfaction at the names which had been bestowed on three of the new counties by their predecessors. Among other changes it was therefore pro-


posed to name the County of Fox, Calhoun. The opposition which developed was placated by effecting a trade, or compromise, with those who wanted the name of the county tot he east changed from Risley to Webster. Thus the two counties were placed side by side, Calhoun and Webster, by the passage of a legislative measure, January 12, 1853. At that time, there was not a single white man within the prescribed limits of the County of Calhoun, which was attached to Greene County for judicial and tax purposes.

But the attractive and fertile Coon River Valley was not long to wait for the appearance of home seekers; for in April, 1854, Ebenezer Comstock located a claim and built a log cabin in section 12, township 86, range 34, near the western limits of the present town of Lake City. For several weeks, he and his family were the only inhabitants of the county. Then came William Impson, John Condron and J. C. M. Smith and settled in the southwestern part of the county not far from Comstock. Impson was a blacksmith; therefore, the first in the county.

Early in the fall, Peter and Christian Smith, brothers, then living in Polk County, to the southeast in the Des Moines Valley, learned that there was an abundance of big game on the upper waters of Coon River, and decided to start for that region on a hunting expedition. In September, 1854, the two Smiths, with Allen McCoy, Jesse Marmon and two men named Crumley (trappers who had directed the Smith brothers to the Coon River region), assembled at Mr. Comstock’s cabin for an elk hunt. They camped on Lake Creek, a short distance northeast of where Lake City now stands, and, after killing three elk, Marmon and the two Smiths decided to locate claims in the county. Peter Smith bought the claim of Mr. Comstock, Christian selected land in section 13, township 96, range 34, and Marmon selected the southwest quarter of section 5, township 86, range 33.

Prior to March, 1853, there was no land office west of Iowa City. Western Iowa was then divided into two land districts and the offices were opened at Des Moines and Council Bluffs. The eastern three-fourths of Calhoun County lay in the Des Moines district and the western fourth (range 34) was in the Council Bluffs district. In the summer of 1854,


the land office at Des Moines was ordered closed until the first Monday in October. When Jesse Marmon and the two Smiths decided to settle in the county, they abandoned their elk hunt and hurried to Des Moines to be present at the reopening of the land office. The tract selected by Mr. Marmon, being in range 33, was subject to entry at Des Moines, and was the first land entered in the county. Peter Smith also entered a tract that was afterward laid out as Smith’s Addition to Lake City. The Comstock claim, also bought by Peter Smith, and the land selected by his brother Christian, were in range 34, and the brothers had to make a trip to Council Bluffs to secure their titles.

Later in the year 1854, the little colony in the southwestern part of Calhoun County was augmented by the arrival of William Oxenford, James Reams, Joel Golden, Levi D. Tharp, Alford White and Richard Bunting, all of whom came from Cass County, Mich., and John Smith, who came from Missouri.

The house built by Peter Smith upon his claim was of basswood logs, a story and a half high, and was at that time the most pretentious residence in Iowa north of Jefferson, Greene County, and west of Fort Dodge, Webster County. The builder also constructed a sod chimney, probably the first in this part of Iowa.

In the fall of 1854 and the spring and fall of 1855, several other settlers than those mentioned came from Michigan. These included Henry W. Smith, the third of the brothers to locate on the Coon River. He built the frame of a mill and the water-wheel from native timbers, and hauled the machinery from Des Moines with ox teams. It was the first mill in the county and afterward passed into the hands of William and John Oxenford. It was then known as the Oxenford Mill and was swept away in the flood of 1866, but rebuilt. But this is getting ahead of the story. Allen McCoy, one of the elk hunters of 1854, was also a Michigan man who located in the spring of 1855, but moved west of the Missouri River several years later. Charles Amy came from Cass County, Mich., in the fall of 1855, and was joined by his family in 1856. He was a school teacher, a bookkeeper and an excellent business man, and appears to have has other qualifications;


for he platted Lake City, built the first courthouse, and at different times held the offices of treasurer, recorder, surveyor, justice of the peace and postmaster.

As settlers came into the Coon River Valley of Calhoun County, they noted that while they dutifully paid their taxes into the treasury of Greene County very little of the revenue came back to them in the way of needed improvements. In the spring of 1855 they therefore decided to set up political housekeeping for them selves, and submitted a petition to William Phillips, county judge of Greene County, petitioning him to order an election of officers for Calhoun County. Judge Phillips granted the petition and designated the first Monday in August as election day. At that time Peter Smith was elected county judge; Joel Golden, clerk; Christian Smith, recorder and treasurer; William Oxenford, sheriff, and Ebenezer Comstock, prosecuting attorney. Christian Smith resigned his office in January, 1856, and Eli Van Horne was appointed to the vacancy.

In November, 1855, the commissioners appointed by the district judge to locate the county seat reported that they had fixed upon the Town of Brooklyn, four miles northeast of the present Town of Lake City. At that time Brooklyn was given a name, but the only settlements were along the Coon Rivera and the lower waters of Lake Creek farther south. Consequently, in January, 1856, a majority of the voters of the county petitioned County Judge Peter Smith to move the seat of justice to a more convenient locality, which, as specified in surveyor’s terms, was within the corporate limits of the Lake City of today. On April 7, 1856, all but four of the twenty-five legal voters of Calhoun County expressed themselves in favor of the removal, and in the following month the Town of Lake City was laid out so as to include the designated site of the county seat. In the following year a courthouse was built, and Calhoun County took her place among the regularly organized counties of the State. Twenty years passed before the building of the Illinois Central and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroads shifted the county’s center of population so far to the north that it became necessary to relocate the seat of justice at Rockwell City.



Still pushing up the Valley of the Des Moines, the pioneers of Northwestern Iowa were gradually approaching the beautiful lake country. In May, 1855, a vanguard of this migration selected permanent claims on the east bank of the river near where West Bend, Palo Alto County, now stands. They came from Benton County, in the eastern part of the State, making their way through the sparsely settled country by slow-going ox teams, and from Fort Dodge following the dim trail to the Northwest known as the Military Road. “It was the route that the soldiers had taken in going north to Fort Ridgely, and the subsequent supply wagons had left their marks on the prairie grass, but it led these pioneers straight to their new home.”

The party mentioned comprised William Carter and son, Fayette Carter and wife, and Jeremiah Evans and family. Before making a final location, they decided to look around and went farther north, camping on the eastern bank of Medium in what is now known as Jackman’s Grove. As it was late in the season, however, the party retraced their steps early the next morning (May 31, 1855) and began at once to make a permanent settlement at West Bend. Carter and Evans had taken adjoining claims, and broke the prairie on the line which separated their lands. A log house was thrown up for the shelter of the two families. This initial settlement of Palo Alto County was in section 21, West Bend Township of today. William Carter’s son, A. B. Carter, came into possession his father’s farm after it was improved and lived thereon until the spring of 1909, when he moved to the Town of West Bend. The Carter and Evans families were the only settlers during the year 1855.


In July, 1856, another notable group of settlers came to Palo Alto County. It comprised a colony of Irishmen from Kane County, Illinois, and embraced the following families: James Nolan, his wife, daughter and two sons; John Neary, wife, son and daughter; Edward Mahan, wife, two daughters and two sons; Martin Laughlin, wife, three sons and one


daughter; John Nolan, wife and one son; Thomas Downey, wife and one daughter; and Orrin Sylvester and wife. Patrick Jackman and Thomas Laughlin, single, came with these settlers, though not members of any of the families mentioned. Says Dwight G. McCarty in his history of Palo Alto County: “There were six ox teams in the party and they wended their westerly way toward the west. Their proposed destination was in the vicinity of Sioux City, Iowa, but at Fort Dodge they met a man by the name of Lynch, who had been with the government surveying party in 1855, and who told them of the splendid location for settlers along the west branch of the Des Moines River, where there was plenty of timber, abundance of good water, and the tall grass was ample evidence of the fertility of the soil. Some of the party went forward with Mr. Lynch and looked over the ground, returning with glowing accounts of the country. So the entire party started on the rough trail from Fort Dodge. They reached the Des Moines River at last and camped in the timber of what is now known as Murphy’s Bayou. They stayed there nearly a week while the various members of the party prospected the country and selected their claims. While here these pioneers discovered the first traces of Indians. Two dozen slaughtered geese were found hanging in the large elm tree where they had been left by the redskins. But the incident scarcely more than awakened their curiosity, as they had not had occasion as yet to know the treacherous savage nature that was later to spread terror throughout the settlement. These pioneers soon moved up the river and settled on section 14, in Emmetsburg Township, about two miles northwest from the present city of Emmetsburg.”

Little of interest transpired during the first six months following the settlement of the Irish Colony. They hunted, held friendly intercourse with roving Indians; a few settlers located in the neighborhood of the Irish settlement, the original members of which had located in a compact body for protection and social convenience.

About the time the Irish Colony located in the vicinity of Medium Lake, a few miles north of Emmetsburg, the Gardners, the Mattocks, and others settled on the shores of Okoboji and Spirit lakes, Dickinson County. Then came the ter-


rible winter of 1856-57 and the ravages of the Sioux, which culminated in the massacre of March, 1857, and the virtual wiping out of the settlements in the lake regions. Just before the massacre bands of Indians camped in the immediate vicinity of the Irish Colony, although it is denied that Inkpadutah’s fiendish band was in that region. McCarty says: “The news (of the massacre) was first brought to them by three men from Jasper County - Wheelock, Parmenter and Howe by name, who were on their way to the lakes to join the settlement, but when they found the cabins in ashes and the dead bodies of the victims lying where they had fallen, they hurried back to give the alarm. These harrowing reports spread terror throughout the whole Northwest, and many settlers fled to places of safety. The members of the little Irish Colony could hardly believe that Indians who seemed so peaceful when camped so near them that winter could commit such deeds. It was indeed a miracle that they were spared. But, in spite of the general stampede to Fort Dodge, the Irish settlers remained for some time. Their cabins furnished a convenient station for the soldiers of the relief expedition. It was only after the soldiers of the expedition had all returned home, that the faithful little band finally left the colony to seek refuge at Fort Dodge until the following spring.”


In 1855-56, settlers commenced to advance up both the Little Sioux and Des Moines valleys into Northwestern Iowa. Among the first to come into the region included within the present counties of Buena Vista and Clay were two government surveyors named Lane and Ray. Some time in the spring of 1855 they were laying out the old Fort Dodge road. They followed an established trail from Fort Dodge to the North Lizard River in Calhoun County, and thence set their compass on an air line for what afterward was Sioux Rapids. This old Fort Dodge road was used by settlers for many years afterward and became a part of the Sioux City road. Caravans of movers followed it from Fort Dodge to the Rapids and thence west to Sioux City. For some years Sioux Rapids


was the only resting place of any consequence between Fort Dodge and Sioux City.

For many weeks, Lane and Ray ran their lines over the bleak prairies west of the Des Moines River, surveying the road and laying off the township from south to north. Finally, in the fall, they arrived in the region of Sioux Rapids and were so attracted by this country of beautiful groves and finely timbered lands that they overlooked the government rules forbidding employees to enter land while engaged in their official duties, and on what is now section 12, in Barnes Township, Buena Vista County, posted notices covering a choice quarter section of land reading “This land is taken by Lane and Ray.” When they had run their surveys to the Rapids they returned to their claim and built a log house. At any rate, there was a log structure there when settlers came in the following year, and Lane and Ray informed people at Fort Dodge that they had wintered on the Little Sioux River in Buena Vista County. They had hunted and trapped along the river and were well rewarded for their stay.

A portion of the quarter, known as the old Lane and Ray claim in Barnes township, was heavily timbered and was afterward known as Barnes Grove. After the surveyors went east they made preparations to return to their claim. They came as far west as Fort Dodge, where several immigrants were waiting for spring before continuing up the Des Moines Valley and toward the Northwest. When they reached Buena Vista County, they were joined by a party of New Jersey people. They were William R. Weaver and wife, Abner Bell, Mrs. Weaver’s brother, and a man by the name of Totten, with his family. Lane and Ray were of the uneasy kind, for soon after their arrival they sold their claim to a Mr. Templeton, who came from Fayette County, and left the country.

The little colony of New Jerseyites settled in what are now Lee and Barnes townships, but the only one who remained permanently and made any impression on the community was Abner Bell, the eccentric bachelor who lived with the Weavers. He was an expert hunter and trapper and a natural frontiersman, and while the other members of the community built their cabins and planted and sowed, Bell


roamed up and down the river shooting deer and elk and trapping beaver, mink, muskrats and an occasional otter. Afterward he built a small shack and ran a store, his stock in trade consisting of groceries, traps, powder and ball and other articles that a hunter would need. He was swarthy in complexion, and with his garments fashioned form the skins of animals he had shot, his long hair and long beard, and his twinkling blue eyes, was as eccentric in appearance as he was in character. Although Bell was uneducated, he was sociable and popular, and held a number of county offices with more or less credit. For several years he was clerk of the District Court and a member of the Board of Supervisors.

In the spring of 1857, John W. Tucker located on the north side of the Little Sioux River and built a rude cabin near the present site of Sioux Rapids.
It was during this year, however, that the Indian raid up the Little Sioux River stopped for a time all settlement and progress in the county. Inkpadutah and his band of bad Sioux were responsible for the outrages committed at Smithland, Woodbury County, and in various sections of Cherokee and Buena Vista counties. Toward the last of their forays women and girls were subjected to terrible indignities against their sex. Among those who thus suffered were Mrs. Totten and Mrs. Weaver. The men were also ill-treated and beaten, and those of their possessions that attracted the fancy of the Sioux were taken away. This no doubt caused the deep hatred and resentment that Abner Bell showed ever after toward the Indians and he never neglected an opportunity to indicate how thoroughly he despised them. Up to this time, no murders had been committed, but it was only a matter of a few days after the Indian left the settlement at Sioux Rapids that word came down the river telling of the awful butchery at the Okoboji lakes. When the news reached Bell he and one companion immediately set out along the old Fort Dodge road, carried the news of the massacre to Fort Dodge and remained there until he saw the relief expedition started for the scene of the tragedy.

From a history of Buena Vista County written in 1909, and from which the foregoing facts are mainly compiled, is taken the following regarding the beginnings of Sioux Rap-


ids: “During the year of 1857 little of importance, save the raid, transpired. That fall Hiram and William Brooke came out from Cedar Falls, Eastern Iowa, and settled in Brooke Township. They acquired four quarter sections of fine timber and upland, and the remarkable thing about this is the fact that as this is written William Brooke still lives on the place he took when he came here fifty-two years ago. He is easily our oldest inhabitant, by many years.

“In 1858, the present site of Sioux Rapids was laid out in the town lots by Luther H. Barnes, who came to the county with considerable money. He secured the west half and the northeast quarter of section 12 in Barnes township and the west half of the southwest quarter of section 7 in Lee township, all of which was laid out and destined by the founder to be a city of great magnitude and importance. He called the place Sioux Rapids, for no particular reason but his own fancy. Afterwards this was known as Hollingsworth Ford, but when the town actually came in later years (1869) it was called Sioux Rapids, the name selected by Mr. Barnes. Barnes also bought the Templeton claim, which had been settled on by Lane and Ray.” It was largely through the influence and initiative of Luther Barnes that Buena Vista County was organized at an election held on November 15, 1858.
Before its first permanent settler arrived within the present limits of Clay County, it had been created and defined as a political body (1851) and attached to Wahkaw for revenue, judicial and election purposes (1853). In 1855, J. A. Kirchner and his brother, Jacob, set out from their native State of New York to settle in the West. They heard much of Iowa and directed their course thither. Finally they reached Cedar Falls, then an outfitting frontier town almost midway between Dubuque and Fort Dodge, and there met Ambrose S. Mead, who, like themselves, was desirous of exploring the western part of the state. Mr. Mead purchased some Indian ponies, which he tendered to the delighted New Yorkers, who, in turn, bought a sleigh and provisions, and together all started for the farther west. At first, they directed their course toward the spirit Lake region, but near Algona, Kossuth County, they met a man who had been with a government surveying party during the previous year and,


from his observation of a wide range of country, advised them to examine Clay County. When the men reached a point just west of the present Town of Peterson they camped, because they could not cross the Little Sioux at that point. They rested, carefully examined the locality, and decided to found their homes there. They made a claim to the timber land along the river on sections 32, 33 and 34, township 94, range38, being in an about 300 acres, which was equally divided among the three. They then returned to Cedar Falls, where they purchased the necessary teams, farm implements and provisions and returned to their new home. In May, 1856, J. A. Kirchner did the first plowing, built a house, arranged for the harvesting of his crops, returned to New York and in the fall brought to the new western home his father, Christian Kirchner, and wife and ten children. Soon afterward James Bicknell and family arrived, and Mr. Kirchner sold his first cabin to the newcomer and built himself another. A number of other settlers increased the population of what had become known as the Peterson settlement. It was raided by the Indian, property stolen and destroyed, several women subjected to outrages, and otherwise thrown into a panic by the savages who were headed for their historic land in the region characterized by Spirit Lake. Clay County was organized in October, 1858, at the house of Ambrose Mead, on section 34, Peterson Township.

In the lower valley of the Little Sioux, frontier settlers commenced to appear in 1856. Robert Perry, a young Irishman, who had come to New England the year before, and taken to himself a wife of his own nationality, in May of that year brought his young bride to Northwestern Iowa. They camped on the banks of the Little Sioux River in Cherokee County and commenced housekeeping on the original Perry claim of eighty acres on section 28, township 91, range 40, on which the husband erected a log house in which he and his family lived a number of years. Later, he moved to a part of section 29 in the same township. In 1882 he became a citizen of the town of Cherokee, where he died in August, 1888, the father of nine children. The settlement of Robert Perry and wife in the early days of June, 1856, was followed by members of the Milford (Massachusetts) Emigration So-


ciety. Their advance agents were L. Parkhurst and C. Corbett. When they arrived at Council Bluffs, they found that Sioux City had been platted at the confluence of the Big Sioux and Missouri rivers. Soon afterward they met Robert Perry and others, who told them of the beauty and fertility of the Little Sioux; so they struck across country to the valley of the Little Sioux, and in May, 1856, reached the site of Original Cherokee, as distinguished from Cherokee Center, which was never more than a paper town. Other members of the colony followed, and in December of the following year the town was platted, which afterward became the county seat and the City of Cherokee. So that although Robert Perry was the first settler of the county, the Milford Emigration Company of Massachusetts founded the first settlement therein.

Emmet, one of the lake counties of Northern Iowa, was one of the fifty-one counties created by the Legislature in January, 1851, and in 1853 provision was made for its political organization. But there was no occasion for haste in taking advantage of that provision, for it was not until June, 1856, that the first location were made within the limits of the county. At that time, Jesse Coverdale and George C. Granger located in what in now Emmet Township, taking claims for themselves and four of their friends whom they expected within a short time. Before the summer was far advanced the expected friends and settlers arrived in the persons of William Granger, D. W. Hoyd and Henry and Adolphus Jenkins. The first house in Emmet County was built by George C. Granger, who bought a small stock of goods suitable for a frontier settlement and opened the first store also. Not long afterward, came Robert E. and A. H. Ridley from Maine, and the Graves family form Winneshiek County and settled in the vicinity of the present City of Estherville. About the middle of August, 1856, John Rourke located with his wife at Island Grove in what is now High Lake Township. Mrs. Rourke is said to have been the first white woman to become a resident of the county, and the son, Peter, born January 4, 1857, the first white child to claim Emmet County as his birthplace. In 1858, a town was laid out by Adolphus Jenkins, R. E. Ridley and Jesse Cover-


dale and named Estherville, for Esther A. Ridley, the wife of one of the proprietors. When the county was organized in February of the following year, Estherville became its seat of justice.

The early settlement of Pocahontas County, which dates from 1855-56, was an offshoot from the Des Moines Valley. James Hickey and Hugh Collins passed up Lizard Creek from Fort Dodge in February, 1855, and selected claims in what is now the southeastern part of Pocahontas County. At the same time, Mr. Collins selected land for his brother, Michael Collins. Hickey put up a roofless cabin on his claim and in the following year returned to Fort Dodge and sold his shack and his rights of possession. Michael Collins, with his wife and three children, located on the claim his brother had selected for him in August, 1855. He lived in the county until his death more than thirty years afterward and his descendants have well acquitted themselves in this section of the state. Michael Collins and Michael Broderick, the latter a youth of nineteen, were the only men to reside in Pocahontas County in 1855, but in 1856 a considerable number of families located in the southeastern part of the county and in Northwestern Webster County, in the neighborhood of Clare. Pocahontas County was not organized until March, 1859.

O’Brien is on of the far northwestern counties created by wholesale in 1851. At that time, there was no settler within its prescribed bounds. There was, however, quite a large contingent of Irishmen in the Legislature, and the projected county was named after William O’Brien, one of the leaders of 1848 who was urging the establishment of Ireland as a republic. The first white settlers in the county were Hannibal H. Waterman and family. Both Mr. and Mrs. Waterman were born in Cattaraugus County, New York, but never met until the fall of 1852 when they became acquainted in Bremer County, Northeastern Iowa. There they were married in June, 1854, and two years later settled a short distance south of the mouth of Waterman Creek on the banks of the Little Sioux River. Mr. Waterman was a lumberman, a farmer and a Methodist exhorter, and a tall, power-


ful, magnetic blonde, wearing a full beard - altogether a striking man of strong character.


When Mr. and Mrs. Waterman arrived in Southeaster O’Brien County, in July, 1856, they had one child, an infant daughter. On the 30th of May, 1857, they had an addition to their family, in the person of Anna Waterman, who was the first native white child of O’Brien County. But Mr. Waterman was not long to be left in peace as a simple God-fearing settler; for in 1859 appeared at his cabin two professional politicians, James W. Bosler and J. W. Dorsey, both later to be connected with the Star Route frauds and extensive cattle interests in New Mexico. They temporarily hailed from Sioux City, and later seven or eight others from that place arrived to hold an organizing election at Mr. Waterman’s house, the only building in the projected county. A log cabin was built directly in front of Waterman’s house, and four of the officers elected in February, 1860, boarded with him. Waterman himself, in order that all the offices should go ‘round, had been chosen treasurer, recorder and superintendent of schools. In the summer of 1860, about a dozen men from Fort Dodge came up to the county seat of O’Brien and protested the supremacy of “the Sioux City gang.” Mr. Waterman sided with the Fort Dodge people, believing that they intended to become settlers and not political adventurers, and had his claim jumped by the Sioux City men. The result was that the county was exploited most shamefully for a number of years; it was considered a bone with some meat attached, worthy of being fought over by hungry dogs.

Most of the settlers, fairly permanent or otherwise, had located in the southeast corner of the county, where the village of O’Brien had been platted as the “seat of justice.” As the population spread into other sections of the county, it became necessary to locate the seat at a more convenient point than O’Brien. At an election held in November, 1872, it was resolved to locate the seat of justice at the center of the county, where a town was laid out for that purpose. When it came to naming it, the plan was adopted of taking the first letters in the names of the county officials and several other prominent citizens, with the following result:


P (J. R. Pumphrey) - R (James Roberts) - I (C. W. Inman) - M (B. F. McCormick) - G (William C. Green) - H (Dewill C. Hayes) - A (C. F. Albright) - R (I. L. Rerick): in other words, Primghar. Doubtless, the writer is not the only one who has wondered how the name came to be.


if the story of the pioneer settlement of the northwestern counties of Iowa has been followed with care, it will be seen, as noted by Cole, in his History of the People of Iowa, that in 1856 “a new northwestern frontier had been created, with Fort Dodge as a point of Radiation.” The writer would add Sioux City to Fort Dodge. This advance in scattered forward movements, like the skirmish line of American soldiers, was temporarily checked by the terrible winter of 1856-57, of which the implacable Sioux, under Inkpadutah, took advantage, and brought about the massacre in the Okoboji region. Frequent storms had swept over the prairies, covering them with a depth of snow that make travel very difficult, or absolutely impossible. They continued late into march, filling the ravines along the upper Des Moines and Little Sioux rivers with drifts so deep that communication between the scattered settlements was almost impossible for weeks and even months. Provisions were for the most part consumed during the long blockade by the fierce blizzards which raged almost incessantly. The relentless Sioux, many of them outlawed by their own race, driven to desperation both by their physical exposures and sufferings, as well as their hatred of the scattered white settlers, could not have chosen a more favorable opportunity to carry on their warfare; but they only retarded the advance of the whites toward the northwest, in solid phalanx.